Traditional vs. Self-Publishing Comparison

To better understand publishing options, here is a traditional publishing vs. self-publishing comparison.

Traditional Publisher

  • Decides if book is worthy of publication
  • Offers a contract with advance and/or royalties
  • Pays for editing and printing
  • Chooses cover and interior design
  • Handles marketing and promotion
  • Manages book distribution and order fulfillment

  • Self-Publisher

  • Accepts all books
  • Does not pay author for books sold
  • Demands payment upfront from author
  • Allows author to select cover and interior design
  • Leaves marketing and promotion to author (some offer assistance for a fee)
  • Requires author to sell books (some offer fulfillment, e-book and print-on-demand services)

  • Key Differences

    In this traditional publishing vs. self-publishing comparison, the most critical difference is who pays the cost. In self-publishing, you the author underwrite all of the costs of producing your book. That might seem like a lot, but remember this also means you collect all of the profits.

    The difference can be dramatic: A common royalty from a traditional publisher is 5 percent, or about 50 cents from a book that retails at $9.95, but if you publish the book yourself, you pocket the entire $9.95.


    Another bonus for self-publishing is speed in delivering your message. While traditional publishers accept only about 1 percent of book proposals for publication, self-publishing firms rarely turn down authors.

    So instead of shopping your book for months — even years — at traditional publishers or relying on an agent to market your proposal, you can get your book published and ready to sell within weeks or months.

    Get Help With Your Manuscript

    If you feel you don’t have the time or skill to write a book yourself, a ghostwriter can take your ideas and massage them into a polished manuscript for you. Here’s where you can find a ghostwriter.

    Create a Marketing Platform

    Self-publishing works best for those who have a platform for selling their books. If you have an established speaking career, or you are a workshop leader or business leader, self-publishing could be your best option.

    If you do not have those, you can still build your audience through websites and email databases.

    Related Resources

    Read more about Self-Publishing E-Books

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